Having missed the magic century at Portimão, Lewis Hamilton today secured the 100th pole position of his Formula One career. Max Verstappen ended up a very close second. Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc will start from the second row on tomorrow's starting grid.
When qualifying kicked off 10 minutes behind schedule due to necessary repairs to a tyre wall, the Williams and Haas drivers were the first to venture out on track, with Mick Schumacher emerging fastest. Russell aborted his first attempt and went back into the pits at the end of his second lap out on track.
He would emerge again later on and ended up 11th fastest before the last-minute attempts.
By that time, the big guns had also already ventured out, with Mercedes the only team to send their cars out on medium tyres in Q1. It all seemed to work well as Bottas turned out fastest, topping Verstappen by less than a tenth. The cars behind however were also incredibly close, with Ocon in 8th still just 0.276s down on the Finnish Mercedes driver.
In the closing moments, Hamilton went out for some discovery on the soft but he returned to the pits without setting a time on them. Leclerc however did improve to end up at just 0.04s of Bottas while Norris topped the times by shaving another 0.184s off of Bottas's best.
As for the eliminations, Kimi Raikkonen improved on his previous run, but he was far from the surprising performance he showed in final practice. Late improvements by Stroll and Alonso means the Finn was out, along with Tsunoda, Latifi and both Haas drivers.
Vettel, Russell and Giovinazzi were the slowest drivers to make it into Q2.
Q2: Verstappen triggers alerts
The second part of qualifying saw the times tumble. Verstappen had an impressive lap and rounded Circuit de Catalunya in 1:16.922, nearly half a second faster than Bottas thanks to going purple in every single sector. Hamilton was third fastest at little more than 7 tenths and Norris closely matching the Mercedes driver.
Behind them, everybody was approximately 1s behind Verstappen, going from 5th-fastest Sainz with 0.925s deficit to Vettel in 13th, still just 1.157s behind. Only Russell and Giovinazzi were a bit out of sequence as both were more than a second behind Vettel.
The close battle meant everybody except Verstappen was out on track 2 minutes from the end of the session. Most to get ready for another flying lap, Russell on his way back to the pits.
Many drivers improved, including both Mercedes drivers as they reduced their deficit to Verstappen to slightly more than two tenths. Sainz, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Ricciardo and Ocon all improved as well, leaving Alonso lucky to progress into Q3. Stroll and Gasly were less lucky, dropping out by just a few hundredths.
Q3: Head to head
The final part of qualifying was kicked off by Norris setting a flying lap, soon topped by Sainz and Lerclerc. Leclerc, just like Norris and Alonso did their first runs on used soft meaning they couldn't challenge the front runners on their first outing.
As Perez made a mistake and was lucky not to get stuck in the gravel trap, Hamilton was flying and went fastest in 1:16.741, narrowly topping Verstappen by 0.036 and Bottas by 0.132.
With still a lot to play for in the final outing, the run-up to the final flying laps was an interesting one with several overtakes in the out-lap as everyone left the pit closely behind one another. Alonso deliberately let himself pass by both Ferrari's, followed by Verstappen who passed the Alpine as well as both Ferraris.
Hamilton was first out on track but failed to improve, but neither did Bottas or Verstappen. Leclerc though improved to 4th as Ocon ended up 5th, sandwiched between both Ferraris.
Daniel Ricciardo was 7th fastest, ahead of a somewhat disappointing Sergio Perez and Lando Norris. Fernando Alonso completed the top 10. He managed to shave off a few tenths on his second outing but was still 0.15s behind Norris.
The marginal differences at the front, as well as the closeness of Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine make for a promising Spanish Grand Prix.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:18.245||1:17.166||1:16.741||19|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:18.090||1:16.922||1:16.777||14|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:18.005||1:17.142||1:16.873||16|
|5||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:18.281||1:17.743||1:17.580||15|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren Mercedes||1:18.264||1:17.719||1:17.622||14|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:18.203||1:17.669||1:17.701||17|
|9||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Mercedes||1:17.821||1:17.696||1:18.010||17|
|10||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:18.281||1:17.966||1:18.147||17|
|11||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:18.241||1:17.974||-||12|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||1:18.190||1:17.982||-||9|
|13||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:18.289||1:18.079||-||12|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:18.549||1:18.356||-||12|
|15||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:18.445||1:19.154||-||11|
|16||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda||1:18.556||-||-||6|
|17||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:18.917||-||-||6|
|18||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:19.117||-||-||9|
|19||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:19.219||-||-||9|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:19.807||-||-||9|